Universities in Afghanistan have resumed classes three weeks after the Taliban seized power in the country. But they do not continue as before. Teachers and students in major cities such as Kabul, Kandahar and Herat testify to the Reuters news agency that men and women are strictly isolated in several places. They are taught separately or are separated from each other by a curtain in the middle of the class.
The situation in Afghanistan’s universities and schools is closely monitored by the international community, which is demanding that the Taliban respect women’s rights in exchange for vital aid and diplomatic relations. This is not an unfounded concern, because when the Taliban were last in power – between 1996 and 2001 – girls were no longer allowed to go to school and women were not allowed to go to university or work.
However, the Taliban have asserted in recent weeks that women’s rights will be respected “according to Islamic law,” but it is not clear what exactly that means in practice.
Reuters obtained a document containing guidelines for the resumption of studies from the Association of Private Universities of Afghanistan. It states, among other things, that wearing a headscarf is mandatory and that there should be separate entrances for female students. The latter should be taught by female teachers, separately or in smaller and separated classes.
According to the news agency, it was not clear whether the document included the official position of the Taliban. The group has not responded yet. Last week, the Taliban indicated that schools should reopen and men and women should be separated. “Curtains are perfectly acceptable for that,” a senior official said.
Pictures shared by Ibn Sina University in Kabul and making the rounds on social media show a gray curtain dividing the classroom in two. Women wear veils and long clothes, but their faces are visible.
The resurgence of the Taliban has worried many women in Afghanistan. They fear that the rights they have fought for over the past twenty years will once again be swept aside.
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